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Archive for December, 2011

Shahaan EngineerTalented motor racing newcomer Shahaan Engineer will continue his single-seater education just two weeks from now after officially confirming his participation in the 2012 Toyota Racing Series – the final round of which will be the 57th running of the prestigious New Zealand Grand Prix.

Dubai-based Shahaan, who is just 16-years-of-age, will be the youngest and least experienced driver in the Kiwi championship when it commences in mid-January. Notably, he will also be the youngest competitor in the New Zealand GP on 11th/12th February which, back in the 1960s, was won by such racing legends as Sir Stirling Moss, Jack Brabham and Jackie Stewart.

After enjoying an impressive car racing debut during the recent Protyre Formula Renault UK Finals Series, where he out-performed a large number of experienced competitors and qualified eighth fastest out of 29 drivers on his first weekend, Shahaan is now looking to benefit from vital track time in New Zealand as he seeks to hone his skills ahead of the 2012 Formula Renault UK Championship.

Toyota Racing Series will field the largest overseas entry in the category’s history when it begins on 14th/15th January – what’s more, the level of competition will be fierce with drivers from top-line championships such as GP2 and Formula Renault 3.5 taking part. Once again, the 15-race campaign will further enhance the category’s status as a key proving ground for aspiring Formula One drivers.

Competitors in the 2012 series will enjoy a large amount of seat time, covering more than 2,500 kilometres during testing and racing over the five consecutive race weekends which will take place across the length and breadth of New Zealand.

“I am really excited to race in the Toyota Racing Series, mainly because of the high level of drivers I will have the opportunity to compete against and learn from”, said Shahaan, “There is no other series in the world where a rookie can race against drivers with experience of GP2, Formula Renault 3.5 and other senior championships.”

The Toyota Racing Series, which boasts full FIA (Federation Internationale de L’Automobile) status, will take place over five back-to-back weekends between mid-January and mid-February with the opening three races to be contested on 14th/15th January at Teretonga Park, Invercargill.

From there, the increasingly popular championship will travel to Timaru International Raceway, Taupo Motorsport Park and then Hampton Downs in Auckland. The grand finale of the season, the 57th New Zealand Grand Prix, will be held on 11th/12th February at Manfeild in Feilding.

“With our first race starting at Teretonga on January 14th and the series finishing just four weeks later at the New Zealand Grand Prix at Manfeild on February 12th, the Toyota Racing Series now offers the most concentrated and intense international series in the world”, added TRS category manager Barrie Thomlinson.

Driver Profile
Full Name: Shahaan Sharokh Engineer
Date of Birth: 6th September 1995
Birthplace: Mumbai, India
Residence: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Height: 170cm
Weight: 66kg

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

Seb Morris leading Jenson ButtonSeb Morris, 2011 Ginetta Junior Champion and WRDA Welsh Young Driver of the Year, has spoken of the “great privilege” of taking part in the recent Dan Wheldon Memorial Kart Race – an event set-up in remembrance of the former IndyCar Series Champion and double Indianapolis 500 winner.

Wheldon, who tragically lost his life in a racing accident at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in October, was undoubtedly one of Britain’s most successful and talented drivers and the fund-raising kart race at Daytona in Milton Keynes earlier this month proved the perfect way for the motorsport world to pay tribute.

Marford-based Seb joined some of the globe’s top racing stars, including 2009 FIA Formula One World Champion Jenson Button, multiple IndyCar Champion and Indy 500 Winner Dario Franchitti and former Grand Prix stars David Coulthard, Johnny Herbert and Anthony Davidson.

Coupled with the honour of taking part in the memorial event, 16-year-old Seb also enjoyed the highlight of racing wheel-to-wheel with Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes star Button…before going on to overtake his Grand Prix hero during his stint on the track in the team event. Clearly, the move will remain one of The King’s School, Chester pupil’s sporting highlights for a long time to come!

“First and foremost, it was a real honour and a great privilege to be part of the Dan Wheldon Memorial Kart Race – he was one of the best drivers on the planet, a real gentleman and a true inspiration to young racers like me”, said Seb, “It was fantastic so many huge names from the top of the sport took part in the race, it was an amazing event and the perfect way to celebrate his life.

“Racing on track with Jenson (Button) was something I never thought I’d do, to overtake him was incredible – my mum has it on video so I’ll be remembering that for a long time! I was ahead of him at the start but he got by, although I managed to get back past before I had to hand the kart over at the end of my stint. It was a really enjoyable race for a truly fantastic cause.”

Organised by international racing star Johnny Mowlem, a close personal friend of Wheldon, the kart spectacular raised an outstanding £17,000 for the Alzheimer’s Society – the Wheldon family’s charity of choice.

After a hugely successful 2011, which brought his second car racing title in as many seasons, Seb is now looking ahead to making his competitive single-seater debut in 2012 as he eyes graduation into the ranks of Formula Renault.

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

Jono LesterJono Lester will make this switch from Porsches to single seaters this summer as he prepares for his debut in the Toyota Racing Series with the ETEC Motorsport team.

The 22-year old Auckland based driver competed in the final round of the 2011 TRS championship at Taupo in March – finishing in fourth place overall – in preparation for the upcoming season; which is set to be the most competitive yet with a bumper international contingent and a tightly compressed series schedule.

“It’s a real pleasure to be a part of this championship and to be back behind the wheel again. The TRS Management and ETEC Motorsport have been a tremendous help in securing my place on the grid, and there’s nothing in this world more motivating for a driver than a simple opportunity. With the economy the way it is, each and every one of us is lucky to have one.”

Lester recently completed a successful two day pre-season test at Manfeild alongside fellow local drivers Mitch Evans, Nick Cassidy and Chris Vlok, as well as Malaysian ETEC team mate Melvin Moh, in preparation for the opening round of the Toyota Racing Series at Teretonga Park in Invercargill on January 12-15.

The move into single seater racing is somewhat of a career role-reversal for Lester, with many drivers taking the ‘wings and slicks’ path from a young age and progressing into GT & touring car racing later in their careers.

Lester insists however that this is an important part of his development as a driver;

“One of the first people to recommend the TRS to me was Chris Amon. His support and mentoring over the past 12 months has been terrific and I value his input as I work towards a sports prototype drive overseas.

“I’ve got to say that after tasting the TRS at Taupo in March, we couldn’t have made a better move.”

The 2012 Toyota Racing International Series is structured with five events over five consecutive weekends, with the championship working its way up country from Invercargill to Timaru, followed by events in Taupo, Hampton Downs and Manfeild.

Among many exciting new additions to the championship, the coveted New Zealand Grand Prix title will be decided in the final of the 15-race season, adding extra incentive and pressure on the large field of young drivers – something Lester hopes to take advantage of as the championship unfolds;

“I’m one of the old men of the series this year! While my recent experience behind the wheel has been limited, I pride myself on having a good race brain and a cool demeanour. These young guys are all blisteringly quick and have a lot of backing behind them, but consistency and experience is an area I hope to excel in over the course of the championship.”

“That motivation and the solid pre-season testing has my mind focussed on one thing and one thing only, and that is to win the championship and get my career back on the right track.”

Lester will compete with the support of championship winning Engineer Andy Neale, with ETEC’s five car line up also including Malaysian driver Melvin Moh, returning British rising star Josh Hill, Indian Shahaan Engineer and Victor Sendin of France.

Lester is supported in his campaign by the New Zealand Motorsport Trust and partnered with Counties Toyota, TradeZone Industrial, Ports of Auckland, Vortex Racewear, Hornet Nutrition, Opti-Flex, R Redpath Limited, Webdesign, iSign it, Sony Electronics, Loaded Sports Drink and Zero Water.

El piloto madrileño ha cuajado una brillante actuación en los 500 kilómetros de Alcañiz disputados este sábado en Motorland Aragón. Pese a tener que retirarse por un problema de embrague en el Ginetta G50 de la Escuela Española de Pilotos, marcó la vuelta rápida y lideró la carrera durante todo su stint.

José Manuel de los Milagros ha vuelto a demostrar este sábado el porqué es uno de los pilotos más rápidos del panorama nacional de circuitos. El piloto madrileño llegaba a Motorland Aragón recientemente coronado como campeón por segundo año consecutivo de la Clio Cup, y quería volver a luchar por el podio en los 500 kilómetros de Alcañiz.

De los Milagros, al volante de un Ginetta G50 de la Escuela Española de Pilotos compartido con Carlos Martínez de Campos y Jesús Díez Villarroel, se ha mostrado como uno de los pilotos de referencia desde los entrenamientos. En calificación, el piloto de veintisiete años conseguía un 2:11.724 que le valía para ser tercero en parrilla de entre los cuarenta vehículos inscritos. “Estoy satisfecho con el resultado, puesto que un tercer puesto siempre es bueno. De cualquier forma apenas he dado dos vueltas, y hubiese necesitado alguna más para tener más feeling con el coche. Estoy seguro de que, entonces, habría tenido muchas opciones de lograr la pole position teniendo en cuenta que apenas se me ha escapado por cuatro décimas”, decía de los Milagros.

En carrera, la velocidad del bicampeón de la Clio Cup le situaba como responsable de tomar la salida y, por supuesto, no ha decepcionado. “Lo he visto muy claro, y a final de recta he visto un hueco y lo he aprovechado para situarme líder”, decía a posteriori De los Milagros. Desde ese momento, su objetivo ha sido abrir la máxima distancia posible para dejar un buen colchón de segundos a sus compañeros de equipo. A ritmo de vuelta rápida, la cual ha logrado con un registro de 2:09.018 –ocho décimas mejor que el mejor de sus rivales-, De los Milagros ha abierto diferencias de más de un minuto con la mayoría de sus rivales, pues “desde que me he situado líder, sólo me he centrado en tirar para adelante. Hemos aprovechado al máximo nuestro depósito de combustible y he completado un relevo muy largo, de hora y media, con el objeto de ahorrarnos una parada en boxes al final”.

Sin embargo, el amplísimo liderato obtenido por el bravo piloto madrileño se ha esfumado apenas ha cedido el testigo a Martínez de Campos. Y es que el veterano piloto ha comenzado a sufrir problemas de embrague nada más retomar la pista y, cuando se dirigía a boxes, otro rival le ha golpeado dejando maltrecho el Ginetta G50. Pese a los esfuerzos de la Escuela Española de Pilotos por reparar el coche, y aunque éste ha regresado a pista, posteriormente ha tenido que retirarse al agravarse el mencionado problema con el embrague.

“Ha sido una pena porque creo que estábamos haciendo una carrera muy buena y que teníamos opciones de lograr un buen resultado final. Pero así son las carreras. Quiero agradecer la oportunidad de
disputar esta carrera a todas las personas que la han hecho posible, así como felicitar a la Escuela Española de Pilotos por darme un coche tan competitivo y con el que sólo me he tenido que centrar en pilotar. El año que viene me gustaría repetir para resarcirme del abandono”, explicaba de los Milagros, añadiendo finalmente que “el 2011 de todas formas ha sido muy bueno, con el título de la Clio Cup, la victoria en la Copa de España de Resistencia y también con el triunfo de nuestra categoría en las 24 horas de Barcelona”.

Facundo RegaliaArgentina’s driver, at the wheel of car lined up by French team, concluded second during first day of GP3 collective testing held at Jerez. In addition he was the fastest man of Lotus ART on track.

Facu Regalia showed today his good shape during first day of GP3 collective testing at Jerez, in spite of he had problems in the morning, due to mechanical issues. But, in the afternoon, Argentinean driver improved to achieve second fastest time ahead of almost thirty cars.

Regalia, who was making his debut with Lotus ART – team led by Frédéric Vasseur and Nicolas Todt and with a long career in motorsport-, had a hard start of the day, mainly related to gearbox problems. “It was a shame because when my car was fixed, morning´s season was almost finished. I just completed a few laps”, Regalia explained afterwards, but who tried his best during the afternoon. “Because of our problems, we started after lunch time on new tires, and it was useful to be second since the beginning, and having a good fight with Daniel Abt on track to be first”, Regalia said later and, obviously, he was happier with his performance.

At the end, Lotus ART´s driver improved his lap times to set a best time of 1:35.587, which meant a second place during afternoon´s session. “Today was a very positive day for us, and I feel happy with our work. Despite our problems, we knew how to manage them and in the end we could overcome them. We were second, a fantastic position if we think there were almost 30 cars on track. On the other hand, to work with Lotus ART was good for my learning”, Regalia finally explained. Tomorrow, a new day and Regalia is going to drive “with Status GP. I hope to avoid any kind of problems and to finish on top”.

Team GhinzaniAfter MLR71, the first new entry for the 2012 season, Auto GP keeps attracting the interest of the best teams in international motorsport.

While the outfits that are already part of the Series are confirming their commitments and in some cases are willing to increase the number of cars they line-up, other top-notch teams from different championships are targeting an entry in Auto GP.

Team Ghinzani is one of them, as team boss Piercarlo Ghinzani revealed in an official press release from the team: “Entering Auto GP would be a great opportunity, as I strongly believe that nowadays the championship is the best value for drivers that are exiting from F3 and looking for the next step of their careers. Enzo Coloni and his staff managed to create a sort of little World Championship, and it’s having quite a big impact on drivers. Furthermore, we know the car very well as it’s the same we used as Team Italy in the first three season of A1GP, clinching wins, podiums and pole positions. That’s why I think that entering the Series is the right choice for us”.

Ghinzani’s words are particularly important because they come from a man with a nearly 40-years experience in top-notch motorsport, first as a driver and then, from 1992, as a team owner. Being among the most winning Italian teams, with a list of achievements that includes successes and podium finishes in the Italian F3 and A1GP (racing as Team Italy from 2005 to 2009), Team Ghinzani would be a welcome addition to the Auto GP grid.

Enzo Coloni: “I was particularly happy when I heard from Ghinzani that he was very interested in an entry in our Series. As our careers in motorsport started more or less in the same years, we know each other from a long time and we have a relationship of mutual respect and regard, meaning that working together in Auto GP would be a pleasure.

Then, from a performance standpoint, it’s worth to underline that Team Ghinzani already knows this chassis, as they were racing as Team Italy in A1GP, and even if the car has changed from those times, I’m sure that such knowledge will be an help for the team. If they really enter the Series, I’m sure that they will be quick straight out of the box”.

Gary ThompsonGary Thompson capped his 2011 season perfectly this week with a successful maiden test in premier Asian single-seater series Formula Nippon.

The 19-year-old has spent this year competing in Japanese F3 for the SGC by KCMG team, recording a breakthrough win and scooping an additional five podium finishes. He remained with the squad for his first taste of Formula Nippon, enjoying two days of running at the Fuji International Speedway on Monday and Tuesday (November 28/29).

Although at the controls of a significantly faster machine than he is used to, Thompson quickly settled down to business in the 3.4-litre Toyota V8-powered car, delivering competitive times within a few laps of hitting the circuit. Growing in confidence throughout, he was able to outpace his experienced team-mate by a considerable margin whilst also putting a clutch of series regulars and a former DTM and GP2 campaigner in the shade.

Formula Nippon is notoriously tough for rookies to get to grips with thanks to the technical nature of its Swift FN09 chassis and the presence of several world-class drivers amongst its ranks.

Despite this Thompson made a strong impression on his team, who handed him extra time behind the wheel after his impressive performance on Monday. This level of trust bodes well for the Irishman as he seeks to take the next step up the motor racing ladder.

Gary Thompson: “Firstly, I’d like to thank Toyota, KCMG and SG Changi for giving me the chance to take part in this test. Their support has been invaluable and I’m truly grateful for it.

“The car is really fun to drive: it’s seriously quick, but at the same time you can grab it by the scruff of the neck and really attack it.

“I was able to settle in to a rhythm quickly, which was great. Initially the high-speed corners were a challenge but by the end I feel I was very strong in them. I think I stood up to the increased physical demands of the car too, so that’s very positive.

“Though the test went well we still aren’t making Nippon our priority for 2012 as this was more of a learning experience. That said, if the right offer of a seat came along I certainly wouldn’t rule it out as I’m very keen to get the opportunity to go racing in one of these cars. Formula Nippon remains one of my long-term goals and I’m thrilled to have made a positive first impression.”

Thompson’s focus will now switch to firming up his plans for next season as he bids to build on the momentum his career has gained during the past 12 months. With a maiden Japanese F3 win to his name and now a successful Formula Nippon test under his belt the Dubliner will be looking to go from strength to strength in 2012.

Follow Gary Thompson on:
Twitter: @GThompsonRacing